Four Country Sonnets (with Attachments)


Image of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel

Eastern Kentucky

After Terrance Hayes and Wanda Coleman

Attachment 1

country music is Black — indigenous — immigrant — almost successfully paved over — i made these poems from 36 common words in top-selling country songs since the ’90s according to a concert ticket corporation


got / get









ride / cruise































Country Sonnet: Red

Cruisers radio in from backcountry:
a man blown to memory. All the old causes.
My country is feeling without memory,
cause without justice. GET BACK GO AWAY
my country’s man-drunk song. My
highwayman country drunk-drives
through its own honkytonk’s
back window. On some backroad, my country   
blows out my countryman’s memories like
windows: night within, night without. No.
Not “some backroad.” This little town. Tonight.


Country Sonnet: White

            for fellow kids of assimilated immigrants

“I wanna go back, right on back, cruise on back
         to country. You know: country. Beer. Jeans. Radio.
                 Little towns… Trucks drunk on honkytonk highway…
         Real men. My country, without the… you know.

“I wanna go back ’cause I wanna go back ’cause I just
         want every… every… (you know)… gone. I know, I know
                 it sounds a little… But you get it, man. I know you
get it. Right?   … Oh.

You’re …?
                 I’m not—I mean, I’m no—you know I’m not—.
         I just mean, what I mean is

“I wanna go back. My memory-song, my
         window-road—it’s real, right?         Right?”


Attachment 2

figuring out where to put these attachments was tricky — preface? endnote? coda? — when combined and buried between poems 1 and 2 they disrupted the flow — created a fake division — implied a cut — a here vs there — like a damn border — but at the beginning or end they felt vestigial boring compulsory — like a damn border — so seeing as i was stuck — ni modo — i sort of shredded them and poured them into the gaps unevenly — dreamed of explaining and explaining until logic crumbled — like studying a border


Country Sonnet: Blue

Man, I feel like a…
         not-man? No-man?
A man without a truck?
         Without a country?
No. I feel like…
         like a kiss. Like a play.
It feels good. Can I just
         kiss a man? Play
with a man’s back
         without feeling like
a little country in a big country,
         a little window in a big night?
O beer: kiss my jeans.
         O knowledge: back off.
O whisky: cruise me back
         babylike to the man
I could not be in my town.
         Kiss little windows
through every real memory.
         O man:
baby me. Be my countryman
         in no man’s country.


Attachment 3

there’s danger here — here meaning the poems

a weakness for meaning — an addiction to it — u could say i have these — poetry as i learned it young tempted me with the following comfy dogma — THE RIGHT WORDS — final perfect — comprehensively expressive — a poem could taper to a point — not spread at both ends — retain no dirt in its branchings rootings

there’s a trick where art about a place destroys the place — a hit country song — a mural about neighborhood community on a block of new condos — hillbilly elegy — and here’s the danger — if these poems are — ABOUT — THE — SOUTH — then they do worse than fail — they conclude — they mean

if i only write the danger how different is that from strip mining? lobotomizing the land to seek a vein of death u can extract and refine for profit or — worse — publication — something really deep


Country Sonnet: Green

         driving home from the Lexington airport

Right-wing radio in a truck not mine.
Not without good memories, I highway back

to my little no-good honkytonk town—no,
that play-memory of the town

isn’t real. I mined it
from wannabe country songs

once I was gone—as I was mined from my town
’cause I wanted jeans and my country needed highways.

I don’t know
what’s real, what real is. Now,

driving by memory, all my
blown chances blown back, I know I know

so little.
What is really mine? The night,

at play on truck windows. A feeling
without a cause. A need. A good need.


Attachment 4

not all endings conclude — to end on beauty — a good need — is no conclusion — in real life these 4 poems and 36 words loop-shuffle every time the cumberland gap exalts my radio between the English bible station and the Spanish bible station to static

not complete clean virtuous — not me — this word list — a language you might hear by accident driving the notch of Kentucky i’m from — scanning the radio — never a full song — i hope you find hollows in these poems for your own meandering trouble



G.G. Harrow (pen name) got an MFA on the East Coast and lives in the South. Poems and translations appear in The Offing, Willow Springs, The Normal School, and elsewhere.

Photo from Creative Commons.

Four Country Sonnets (with Attachments)

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